For parents of children whose friend has cancer
Most children may already know about cancer or someone with cancer. Most often, the affected person is an adult, possibly a grandparent or an older relative. It can be confusing and frightening for a child to find out that children can also get cancer.
It’s important to talk to your child about what’s happening to their friend. It can be helpful to talk about their feelings about their friend.
Cancer Council Australia has put together these guides when talking to children about cancer, which may be useful if your child has a friend with cancer:
- Talking to kids about cancer: a guide for people with cancer, their families and friends is a booklet you can download. It offers advice about how to talk to children about their cancer, and other family members. Some of this information is available on their webpage Talking to kids about cancer.
- Cancer words for kids is a child-friendly glossary that gives tips about words to use when talking about cancer with children.
The 'Talking to your child and other children about cancer' page also has some topics and resources that you might find useful when talking about your child’s friend’s cancer.
Tips for helping your child who has a friend with cancer
For younger children
- Help your child to remain friends with the child who has cancer. It can be confusing for your child if a friend suddenly disappears from their life. They might think their friend has died. It may help to explain to your child they probably won’t see their friend as often as they used to and that they may not interact in the same way. You and your child's school should encourage social interaction whenever feasible.
- Help your child to understand that cancer isn’t ‘catching’. They can’t get cancer from their friend.
- Explain that things will change for the child who has cancer. They may not be able to run around as much. They might miss a lot of school. They may lose their hair or have other physical changes. Your child’s friend might even be in a wheelchair for a while.Encourage your child to focus on the things that are the same, like their personality and friendship.
- Make time to help your child keep in contact with their friend. Ongoing contact between friends is very important for helping the child with cancer to cope. You could:
- take your child to visit their friend in hospital or arrange a time to have an online video chat.
- make a get-well card, write a letter or make a decoration for their hospital room.
For older children
As well as the tips above, older children may also use social media and the internet to keep in touch with their friend. Make sure your child has access to phone, email or social media, to help them maintain their friendship